While technically released in 2016 as a visual album, many dismissed Endless as just a way for Frank Ocean to get out of his contract with Def Jam Records. (His much larger, more lauded release Blonde would be released the very next night.) That, plus the fact that the music included in the visual album never saw a release in audio-only format, forced fans to take it upon themselves to make custom edits and provide a tracklist based on the credits. Now it is officially out in the world in CDQ (CD Quality) for those who ordered off his website. The difference is best described as jumping from VHS to High Definition. So now the question has to be asked: did we all sleep on this? Well, yeah. While definitely more experimental than Blonde and about 30 minutes shorter, Endless still shows the ability to effortlessly shift between multiple genres and ideas in a small amount of time. The track that instantly stands out and benefits tremendously from the improvement in quality is “Unity” (which has been listed by fans as “U-N-I-T-Y” previously). The track also serves as a reminder that Ocean is an underrated rapper, with lines like, “My crew saved your crew / Like niggas came through with the Groupons / Cookin’ with the grease now, truffle fries and Cholula.” While not as heartbreakingly vulnerable as Blonde, Endless is an essential release that shows Ocean’s continued growth as a songwriter. —Brandon Lattimore


Calling Frankie Cosmos “cute” is reductive, but when you first lay ears on Greta Kline’s tender pop miniatures, that’s the word that comes to mind. It’s been that way since she started recording as a teen, writing harmonic artifacts that felt more like diary entries than full-fledged songs. Zentropy (2014), her first full-length, marked a move toward more thoughtful structures, but it wasn’t until Next Thing (2016) that she found her groove as an arranger and selector, alongside her already unparalleled knack for vulnerability. This newest release, Vessel, pushes her sound a step further with weird song shapes, restless meters, and even the occasional synth. “Punk” is a much less obvious Frankie Cosmos descriptor than “cute,” but her dedication to the 90-second song speaks for itself. And Vessel gets pretty loud. Still, the best moment on the album comes on “Duet,” when Kline sings, “Making a list of people to kiss / The list is a million yous long.” —Raphael Helfand


Iceage’s fourth record feels a lot like drinking through a hangover. The raw anger of their early hardcore output has transmuted into biting proclamation, and their dabbling in various post-punk genres has found a more permanent home in the gothic blues that Nick Cave trades in. Coming four long years downstream from the similarly Cave-indebted Plowing into the Field of Love, Beyondless is Iceage’s most cogent and concise album to date. Lead single “Painkiller” (with guest vocals from Sky Ferreira) is a seminar on how to craft an effective modern rock single. “Catch It” is a heavy, psych-rock slow burner. Ace production choices like alternately pounding and tinkling honky-tonk piano and adroitly placed horn sections elevate fun tracks like “Thieves Like Us” and “Showtime” into punk-cabaret stunners. Elias Bender Rønnenfelt has always been a throwback of a frontman, and the vocals still carry his trademark drunken charisma. By stripping down their brand of punk to a more essential sound, Iceage has cut away more than just fat. Beyondless gains a new sort of confidence in its restraint. Make it through to the end of the album and the pounding in your head will have switched from pain to pleasure (and back again). —Andrew Cirac


New York City’s Krimewatch sprang forth in 2016, blowing up from their critically acclaimed demo to grace the stages of last year’s Sound and Fury and Damaged City fests. The group consists primarily of women, so other critics are quick to dismiss them as female-fronted. But that’s not a real genre of music, so from now on, that term is canceled. This highly-anticipated release is around twelve minutes, and it fucking delivers. Japanese and English lyrics are blended effortlessly with the iconic NYHC sound. The lyrical content is pronounced and addresses issues like poverty, misogyny, racism, gentrification, women empowerment, and police brutality. Pay attention to Krimewatch. —Nessa Moreno


Floating Features kicks it back a few dimensions. Surf rock starlings La Luz have loaded this record with whirling keys, powerful guitar riffs, and cinematic climaxes reminiscent of ‘60s classic rock superstars like The Doors and Cream. This is a slightly new take for the Los Angeles group, who seamlessly weave surf-heavy elements with the driving instrumentalism of typical rock music. This marriage of sounds is compelling, multicolored, and keeps the album moving. On tracks like “California Family” and “Loose Teeth,” tried-and-true fans will revel in the sound La Luz is best known for—a floaty mysticism with layered, intimate vocals. From there, listeners can explore the more vintage-inspired tracks, like the commanding, reverb-based titular song or the sentimental, winding final number “Don’t Leave Me On The Earth,” both of which boom with complex symphony. Floating Features even sports a few tracks that play with the gauzy, romantic themes of ‘50s doo-wop, giving this record a time-traveling effect. And wherever this album takes you, it will be a wild, enigmatic ride. —Maeve Holler


Blood On The Tracks is the debut full length documenting the growth and development of local songwriters Mac Folger and Rui De Magalhães. “2000 Boy” rings strong as an opener, showcasing the band’s melodic mindfulness. “Rats” breaks that vibe immediately with punching down-stokes on bass and a four-on-the-floor rhythm, showing the contrast between the songwriters. The coupling of these smart, serious songs with brash, fun songs keeps the record interesting without a speck of monotony, though not all of the songs are as polarizing as the two openers. The album was recorded and mixed by local engineer Ross Farbe, the perfect person for the job, as quality and clarity are his forte. Blood On The Tracks is an excellent first note for this band, so  don’t miss out on them before they potentially find better things than New Orleans. —Robert Landry


When Mazzy Star released Seasons of Your Day in 2013, it marked 17 years since their previous album, Among My Swan. It was clear then that Hope Sandoval and David Roback were not interested in changing up their formula—sad songs made of breathy whispers floating atop syrupy slide guitars drenched in reverb. The same can be said for the newest EP, Still. The four-song slumber officially brands the ‘90s Cali dream-pop band as a nostalgic comfort zone—a passion project for existing fans and the band itself. The blessing/curse here is that nothing ever feels forced, but nothing feels remotely adventurous either. Don’t get me wrong—I love the songs, but from here on out, I know exactly what I’ll be getting every time. —Kevin Comarda

OPENING FIRE: 2008-2014

To commemorate their ten-year anniversary, thus further fortifying their status as a veritable thrash metal powerhouse, Texas’ Power Trip has unleashed their early accumulation of bangers and ragers unreleased on previous albums. The conjunction of this release with their May/June 2018 national tour cements the overall power and relevancy of Power Trip’s zeitgeist in today’s underground metal scene. This early collection showcases the band’s affinity for Bay Area-stylized thrash along the likes of ‘80s-era Exodus, Testament, and a slight hint of Metallica’s No Life ‘Til Leather demo. Simplistic, fist-pumping riffs and drumming both wedded to the timeless rudiments of basic thrash command dominance through repetition (rather than complexity) on this collection. Power Trip is a contemporary band capable of simultaneously straddling mainstream appeal and underground loyalty not seen since Municipal Waste’s ascendency in the late 2000s. Historic thrash titans continue to make a resurgence, but Power Trip stands at the fore. —Dan McCoy


How earnest is Creations for Electric Guitar as a title? Its four ethereal movements were certainly created with an electric guitar—as well as a tape deck, an army of stomp boxes, and a practiced disregard for musical convention. The clinical title and retro cover art lend this cassette the aura of a lost instructional tape. Someday, someone may find it in a thrift store bin, not knowing what to expect or which decade it’s from. Side A could easily be mistaken for a NASA field recording, while side B hovers closer to earth, introducing 808 beats and closing with an extended live recording from the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center. This is the ambient noise juggernaut’s first third party release after ten plus years of prolific output. It might mean the technological singularity is upon us, but I’m optimistic. If Proud Father can get signed to a Chicago label, then we’re in uncharted territory. —Michael Kunz


Tupelo hard hitters Slim Jxmmi and Swae Lee are in it for the long game. After Rae Sremmurd arrived on the scene in 2014 with chart-topping singles like “No Flex Zone” and “No Type,” the two brothers were prophesied to be one-hit-wonders by many. But as seems evident with their most recent release and third studio album, SR3MM, Swae and Jxmmi are still putting up a good fight. Not only is this record packed full with experimentation that illustrates the duo’s playful nature, but it is voluminous—SR3MM is an ambitious triple album, including nine songs from three separate albums. Swae and Jxmmi feature on their own solo records, respectively titled Swaecation and Jxmtro, alongside a collaborative one, making the full-length 27 total tracks. SR3MM sways and ricochets in and out of genres, crafting a collection of calculated beats that are well-complemented by endearing personal narratives. In total, though, a long album will always have its lulls, and many of the high points of SR3MM come when guest artists like Travis Scott, The Weeknd, and Juicy J are featured. This might signify that Rae Sremmurd is losing their traction and should try shifting gears soon. —Maeve Holler


Similar to earlier records Major Arcana and Foil Deer, Speedy Ortiz’s latest, Twerp Verse, experiments with switching tempos, styles, and combining instruments of different speeds to create a fast-paced, high-energy climax in each song. Tracks like “Lucky 88” and “I’m Blessed” spin out into the twisted, playful chaos enjoyed by established listeners. For newcomers, Twerp Verse might be difficult to get through as it lacks a supply of memorable, catchy sing-along tracks like “Hitch” and “Pioneer Spine” from Major Arcana. Even more, a lot of Twerp Verse is devoid of emotion; and with the flippant attitude promoted throughout these songs, they are undoubtedly less sentimental than those of previous releases. This album is almost formulaic, and it could be time for the group to switch directions, or at least experiment with a more innovative soundscape to keep the attention of their listeners. Maeve Holler


An angel holds clandestine meetings in St. Louis Cathedral, a vampire keeps his secret lair beneath an Uptown mansion, and some of those fortune tellers in Jackson Square really do have magic powers. That’s the basic premise of The City of Lost Fortunes, Bryan Camp’s first novel, a kind of New Orleans answer to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. It’s a post-Katrina story rolled into a fantasy whodunit: down-and-out demigod Jude Dubuisson has the power to find lost things, but he’s managed to lose ties to his mysterious father, many of his friends and, after the levee failures, much of his mental health. He finds himself on a quest to save the city from a new supernatural threat, and Camp clearly has fun melding Crescent City culture with a whirling mashup of world mythologies. New Orleans residents and visitors will enjoy seeing what magical properties he’s granted to their favorite spots. The trouble is, the setting often outshines the videogame-like plot. At some point, the hero’s journey shifts from magical New Orleans romp to epic struggle, but it’s never clear exactly what’s at stake. Dizzying numbers of new gods, magic spells, and laws of nature don’t leave much room for character development. —Steven Melendez



The premise: the period following 1967’s La Chinoise, when filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard nosedived from narrative cinema into didactic diatribe filtered through the marriage to his then 19-year-old muse Anne Wiazemsky (Nymphomaniac’s Stacy Martin). Juicy, if only Hazanavicius had pursued it with a steady hand. All that seems to land convincingly, however, is the lead actor’s hairline. The first half struggles to find its footing as Jean-Luc spouts his pedantic rhetoric, growing more grating by the minute (or red-and-blue intertitle, as it were). Characters wander in and say their lines without conviction. Even the narration is muddy. Tone and story founder, as if unsure how much Anne to include alongside Godard’s alienating persona. Mercifully, the second half leaves behind the contrived May ‘68 marches for Italy. Bertolucci makes an arresting appearance. The film, at last, takes its semi-erect member in hand to delight us with flourishes worthy of its subject matter, like in a scene in which husband and wife discuss nudity in a script, meanwhile fully—and gratuitously—nude themselves. In one sublime moment we find Anne in a car’s back seat, windows down, sun in her face, free of Godard, realization dawning. Not only is this a story of an iconoclastic auteur’s degeneration, but also a young wife’s emancipation. And for that fleeting instant we wonder: Why haven’t we been following Anne instead all along? —Derek Zimmer

(FILM 4)

This film fits, genrewise, alongside Michael Mann’s work or Aaron Katz’s Gemini. If her 2011 feature We Need To Talk About Kevin taught us anything, it’s that Lynne Ramsay is a beast at creating mood—namely one of creeping dread. Combined with the ragged and raw Joaquin Phoenix, you get something worthy of a night at the movies. Phoenix plays a contract killer living with his elderly mother. He’s summoned for a job: venture into the city’s seedy underbelly and return a senator’s kidnapped teenage daughter to safety (with the caveat, “I want you to hurt them.”). From this no-nonsense, pulpy premise we enter a world of greenish fluorescents, back rooms with dropped ceilings, and most indelibly, a hardware store where our protagonist procures a $16 hammer of justice. It’s a world through which we move slowly and deliberately, as if through coagulating blood, toward the story’s queasy unfolding. But there’s something else at play here, a lyric, strange poetry. You’re not always sure, as the title suggests, what you’re seeing. —Derek Zimmer

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